Swinging off cliffs, climbing through caves. Do team adventures like this work?

Do team adventures work?

Have you ever had one of those team adventures where you swing off cliffs, and climb through caves, then relive the experience that night over a few drinks? Or maybe you’ve done the Masterchef type corporate cooking challenge or  the “race around town” challenge. They’re all common forms of team adventures or team building. But do they work?

We know that where a team of people have a shared experience, this can build trust and belonging. And we know that vulnerability that comes with putting yourself out there when swinging 30metres above the ground is essential to good leadership and a key component of building trust.

So there’s good theory behind putting a team of people through a shared experience, getting them to face their fears, and (hopefully) triumph over it all.

There’s a but though.

And that is that often these team adventures are done completely in isolation of real life. They’re the brainwave of the poor sucker who is in charge of organising an event. They seem fun, and get the team out of the office for the day. But, there’s often little thought as to what the best outcomes might be and how they’ll serve the team going forward. And almost always, very little thought to what happens if it all goes wrong.

When it all goes wrong….

Very early on in my career, I was involved in a team building exercise that involved caving through water logged caves. The entry to the cave was very tight, and one of the team members couldn’t get through it. Then there was another team member who found the water logged component unnecessarily frightening. The chatter over dinner that night was angry rather than exhilarated. Those team members felt embarrassed and singled out. The ones that did make it through felt as though they couldn’t really talk openly about their achievement. It was not a success.


  • What is the purpose of the adventure?
  • Is it simply a fun day out? Will everyone share that version of “fun.”
  • If it’s meant to be a challenge or a test, are the team prepared for the challenge?
  • What is the team meant to be learning? How does the adventure support their growth?
  • Have all the team contracted with the concept?
  • Are you prepared if it all goes horribly wrong?


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